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Tag:Ricky Dobbs
Posted on: February 18, 2011 12:16 am
 

Spring Practice Primer: Army, Navy, Air Force

Posted by Adam Jacobi

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice. So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers. Today, we look at the service academies -- Army, Navy, and the Air Force Academy -- who all began spring practice yesterday.

Spring Practice Question: Who's going to take the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy in 2011? 

To say there has usually been a talent disparity among the triumverate of military academy football programs is, to say the least, an understatement. If the outcomes of football games were random events, then the odds of the three teams splitting their series at 1-1 apiece would be one in four. In practice, only four times since the inception of the trophy 39 years ago has that happened. Which program is superior changes, of course -- Air Force leads the series, but with only a plurality of trophy wins instead of a majority -- but rarely is it the case that all three teams are on equal footing coming into a season.

We may be at such a situation, though. 2010 marked the first instance in college football history that Army, Navy, and the Air Force all reached bowl games in the same season. Will the trio repeat the feat in 2011? It's quite possible.

Air Force comes into the 2011 (pardon the expression) flying high, and it's easy to see why: the Falcons beat took the C-i-C trophy for the first time in eight years last season, besting Navy 14-6 and walloping Army 42-22. Better yet, QB Tim Jefferson is back for his senior season after rushing for 15 touchdowns and throwing for 10 more. He's the linchpin of the offense and one of the best option quarterbacks in the nation.

The Air Force offense is hardly a one-man show, of course, and it's no surprise that four different players notched over 100 carries on the season in 2010. Tailback and human/waterbug hybrid Asher Clark is also back; Clark led the Falcons in rushing yardage and added five more rushing TDs.

Still, it'll be interesting to see how Air Force's ground game changes with the addition of Des Kitchings as running backs coach and running game coordinator. Kitchings was most recently at Vanderbilt for three seasons, and he was brought in to replace Jamel Singleton, the longtime Air Force assistant who recently joined the staff of incoming Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson this offseason. There probably won't be sweeping changes or anything -- this is still Troy Calhoun's team, after all -- but this is our first opportunity to see how Kitchings addresses the Falcons' ground game and what changes he might implement.

While the current Commander-in-Chief's Trophy holder is Air Force, this rivalry has belonged to Navy for the majority of the decade; the Midshipmen swept the three-pronged rivalry for the seven prior seasons, and even despite losing to the Falcons in 2010, Navy still went 9-4 and earned a bowl bid. This is still a very strong program, in other words.

Unfortunately for Navy, the impossible task of replacing Ricky Dobbs begins this week. Dobbs was arguably Navy's best quarterback since the days of Roger Staubach ('63), and though Dobbs didn't live up to his preseason Heisman hype as a senior, for crying out loud, the man had Heisman hype. Senior-to-be Kriss Proctor appears to be the best bet to replace Dobbs, but if Navy sees a solid spring from Trey Miller, there could be some drama at the QB position.

Where Navy really needs to excel this spring is on defense, however. The Midshipmen struggled at times in 2010, giving up 23 points and almost 400 yards per game, and now that defense needs to replace six starters. Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo recently restructured some of his defensive assistants' responsibilities; perhaps that will help the Middies' middling D.

As for Army, for once, the Black Knights are no slouch, having reached their first bowl in 13 years last season: a stirring (if sloppy) 16-14 upset of SMU in the Armed Forces Bowl. The Cadets return starting quarterback Trent Steelman... sort of. Steelman will miss spring practice after undergoing shoulder surgery last month. It's on his non-throwing shoulder --the left -- so even if rehabilitation goes slowly, it shouldn't drastically affect his throwing motion.

That said, in 2010, Steelman ran the ball 197 times (which isn't even counting the option plays where he pitched the ball and absorbed contact) to 133 pass attempts, so it's not like he can hide a bum shoulder by hanging out in the pocket all afternoon. The Black Knights will look to depend on Steelman in the fall, so it will be extremely interesting to see how the offense handles not having its leader in the saddle during these spring sessions.

The Black Knights' new team captain is linebacker Steven Erzinger, replacing graduating linebacker Stephen Anderson (so many linebackers; so many Steves) who held the title for the last two seasons. Army technically ranked 29th in total defense in 2010, but a closer look at the yards given up per play actually puts Army down at 84th in the nation, so the defense wasn't so much "good" as "not on the field very much." Erzinger's first task, without doubt, is to get his guys into that "good" category if the Cadets want a shot at the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy.

Posted on: December 23, 2010 11:49 pm
Edited on: December 23, 2010 11:50 pm
 

Bowl Grades: SDCU Poinsettia Bowl

Posted by Tom Fornelli

San Diego State proved to be too much for Navy in a 35-14 victory.

San Diego State


Offense: Aside from the third quarter, the only quarter in which the Aztecs failed to score, there really wasn't much to complain about on offense. The Aztecs used a balanced attack against an overwhelmed Navy defense, and the trio of Ryan Lindley, Ronnie Hillman and Vincent Brown proved to be way too much for Navy to handle.  Brown had 7 catches for 143 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter.  He'd finish the night with 8 catches and 165 yards, though he could have had over 200 yards and another touchdown had he not let a pass slip through his hands in the fourth quarter.  Lindley completed 18 of his 23 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns, and also displayed an excellent ball fake on play-action passes.  Some of the best I've ever seen, to be honest.  Still, the star of the show was Hillman, who rushed for 228 yards and 3 scores, and even caught a touchdown pass that helped put the game away.  All in all it was a very impressive performance. Grade: A

Defense: I had some concerns about how the SDSU defense would hold up against Navy's option attack, but like the offense, the defense was also impressive.  They showed strong discipline all night in stopping Navy, and though they allowed two touchdowns in the second quarter, did not allow a single point in the other three.  Yes, the Aztecs gave up some deep passes, but holding a Navy offense that averaged 31 points a game this season to only 14 points is a remarkable feat.  Grade: A

Coaching: Brady Hoke and his staff came into this game knowing where Navy's weaknesses were and attacked them out of the gate.  Navy simply could not stop Lindley and Brown in the first quarter and became so determined to keep that passing game in check that the Aztecs had no problem opening up big holes for Hillman up front.  It was also obvious that the coaching staff spent a lot of time preparing the defense for Navy's option attack, and while they didn't have a perfect game on defense, the Aztecs played better than expected.  Grade: A

Navy


Offense: While you can't really tell by looking at the final score, Navy didn't play all that bad on offense. Ricky Dobbs rushed for over 100 yards and a score, and threw for 147 more and another touchdown.  The sole Navy turnover came late in the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach.  The problem was that Navy's offense couldn't sustain its offense long enough on drives, and stalled a few times at midfield and in the red zone.  In fact, Navy's chances of winning basically died when, trailing 21-14 on its first drive after halftime, the Middies failed to convert on a fourth and goal.  it was probably the best drive of the game that Navy had, and it couldn't muster any points out of it.  You don't win a lot of games when that happens.  Grade: C+

Defense: Here is where the problems really came for Navy. As good as this team has been this season, the fact is that talent wise, the Midshipmen just couldn't match up with the Aztecs on defense.  Without a secondary strong enough to line up and play man-to-man on a regular basis, the Aztecs picked apart the zone defenses.  Up front the Aztec offensive line just proved too much for Navy's front four, as the defensive line never pressured Lindley much and were gashed by Hillman.  Grade: D-

Coaching: It's pretty hard to blame Ken Niamutulolo and his coaching staff for anything that happened in this game.  it's not as if Navy played an undisciplined game or had a bad game plan.  The fact of the matter was San Diego State had a better plan and executed it to near perfection on the night.  Some nights you just get beat no matter what you do, and this was one of those nights. Grade: B-

Final Grade: Going into this game I was expecting a bit of a shootout.  I wasn't sure that the Navy defense would be able to stop the Aztecs, and I questioned whether or not SDSU could stop Navy's option.  As we've gone over, San Diego State did stop Navy.  Still, even though the final margin was 21 points, this game wasn't that big of a blowout.  That being said, there wasn't a whole lot of drama in the fourth quarter either, so it's hard to give this game much higher than an average score.  Final Grade: C+
Posted on: December 23, 2010 11:12 am
 

Ricky Dobbs wins Lowe's Senior CLASS Award

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The Lowe's Senior CLASS Award is a bit different from the rest of the honors on the college football postseason, as it specifically takes into account an athlete's off-field activities as well -- to quote the release announcing this year's winner, "a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence – community, classroom, character and competition."

So it makes sense that this year's award went to Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs. Dobbs is arguably the greatest option quarterback of the past decade or so, an honorable mention All-American who totaled more than 2,000 yards of offense this season and set a single-season record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback as a junior with 27.

But Dobbs is also due to graduate this sping with a degree in general science from one of the FBS's most challenging academic programs, and still finds the time to be involved with various community activities (including helping at multiple football camps in the Annapolis area). After graduation, he'll be serving (naturally) in the U.S. Navy. Tonight's the final game of his career as he takes on San Diego State in the waterlogged Poinsettia Bowl; it's your final chance to watch one of college football's best players in action, and we strongly suggest you take advantage of the opportunity. (Need a preview? The blog's got you covered .)

Also making the Lowe's Senior Class Award All-America first team: Northern Illinois defensive end Jake Coffman, Auburn center Ryan Pugh, Penn State guard Stefan Wisnewski, and Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder. Congratulatiosn are in order for all.
Posted on: December 15, 2010 3:03 pm
 

CBS Bowl Bonanza: Poinsettia Bowl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Why You Should Watch: Because one half of the matchup is Navy, the team that continues to defy its service academy constraints with big wins, bowl berths, and the nation's most reliable year-in-year-out running game ... and their opponent might be even more interesting for the diehard college football fan. San Diego State has long been regarded as the sleeping giant of the Mountain West, a program with the resources and metro recruiting base to challenge for league titles if they ever got the right coach in place. Brady Hoke looks like he might be that coach, and after a huge step forward this season, a Poinsettia win would stamp the Aztecs as the up-and-comer in the new-look MWC.

Plus, this is the last chance to watch Navy's indefatigable Ricky Dobbs, arguably the best triple-option quarterback of college football's past decade. His swan song alone makes the game worth the look.

Keys to Victory for Navy: Things have mostly gone well for the Midshipmen this season, as they enter the bowl with their second straight nine-win campaign already under their belt. But when they've gone wrong, there have been two main culprits. One of them has been the pass defense, which ranks 66th despite playing two games against fellow option teams Air Force and Army . Even with the presence of senior star safety Wyatt Middleton couldn't keep the Midshipmen from giving up an incredible 28 completions in 30 attempts (for 314 yards) in a 34-31 loss to Duke, 413 passing yards and 5 touchdowns in the wild win over East Carolina, and 394 yards and 3 scores to Central Michigan in a 38-37 escape from the 3-9 Chippewas ... all without an interception. If a few leaks aren't plugged, SDSU's Ryan Lindley, the Mountain West's leading passer , will have a field day.

The other issue? Red zone execution. Though their numbers for the year aren't bad, the Midshipmen might have tipped 10 or 11 wins if not for zero points on five different red zone trips against Maryland and just six on three trips against Air Force. If Dobbs continues to throw the way he did down the stretch (including a career high 186 yards against Army) and Navy executes in their usual fashion, the Midshipmen will get their yards. The question is whether they'll turn those into points, and if they do, whether those points will be enough if the pass defense collapses.

Keys to Victory for San Diego State: Most schools would cringe at the thought of having to prepare for Navy's option shenanigans, but the Aztecs have to be quietly confident about the matchup. SDSU has already faced and defeated one option school this season, downing Air Force 27-25 while holding the Falcons to 12 points through the first 52 minutes. Defensive coordinator Rocky Long has years of experience with defending the option from his time as New Mexico's head coach, and he's been better at it than most. Between Long's expertise, the extra time to prepare, and the Aztecs' prior encounter with the option, they should be as ready as anyone to deal with Dobbs and Co. Though it's always easier said than done against the Midshipmen, they'll just have to execute. (It'll also help to have players like Miles Burris around; the first-team all-conference junior linebacker led the Mountain West in tackles-for-loss with 17.)

Offensively, if Lindley is on his game, it's hard to see the Midshipmen doing much to slow down the Aztecs. First-team all-MWC senior wideouts Vincent Brown and Demarco Sampson combined for 2,362 receiving yards and present major matchup problems with Sampson's size and Brown's speed. Navy also won't be able to commit extra bodies to pass defense, thanks to the presence of MWC Freshman of the Year Ronnie Hillman, a tough, explosive runner who finished 12th in the nation with 1,304 yards on the ground and averaged a sterling 5.6 yards per-carry. Lindley put up some huge numbers at times, but he also struggled with interceptions, his total of 14 tying for the second-highest in the country. If he can find Brown and Sampson more often than he finds Middleton and the rest of the Navy secondary, the Midshipmen could be in for a long day.

The Poinsettia Bowl is like: a forgotten pulp comic from the 1960s, in which a heroic naval commander, at the end of a long journey, has one final battle to fight when his division is ambushed in San Diego bay by ... a horde of bloodthirsty Aztecs?!?! Like the imaginary tussle out of those comic pages, this one promises to be hard-fought, action-packed (with these two offenses? You bet), and in doubt right up until the final frames.

Posted on: December 11, 2010 4:21 pm
Edited on: December 11, 2010 5:56 pm
 

14-point play may doom Army vs. Navy

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It may be a little early to declare the Army-Navy game (live now, exclusively on CBS ) over and done with, but with the Midshipmen up 24-7 at halftime , it doesn't look like this is the year the Black Knights end their eight-year losing streak against their archrivals. Army's first-half score is their single touchdown scored against Navy since 2006, so how likely is is they manage the three necessary to overturn the deficit?

Not likely, though it didn't look like likely that Army would even offer the Midshipmen a challenge after falling behind 17-0 and not recording so much as a first down until 10:15 remained in the half. But Ricky Dobbs' fumble set the Knights up on the Navy 23, and a short Trent Steelman touchdown pass broke Army's three-year touchdown drought.

But Steelman giveth, and Steelman taketh away in the most gut-wrenching fashion possible. Another Navy fumble led to first-and-goal for Army from the 3, but Steelman fumbled on a plunge over the right side, and Wyatt Middleton returned the ball 98 yards for a massive Navy score. Instead of being down three with the ball to start the second half, now the Knights are looking at scaling a near-impossible deficit. One play, a 14 points' worth of swing.

Of course, part of the reason that deficit looks as imposing as it does is because when they haven't been fumbling the ball away -- they've done it three times -- Navy has been the better team. Dobbs has torched Army through the air, connecting on four passes for 164 yards (yes, that's 41 yards a completion) and the Midshipmen own a 213-115 advantage in total yards. 77 of those came on this Dobbs touchdown pass to John Howell , the longest Navy play in Army-Navy history:
 


Assuming Navy hangs onto the ball, the Knights won't stand a chance of a comeback after Middleton's score.

They might not have stood a chance anyway, of course. But if the streak extends to nine games, there's also no question that's the play they'll point to as the moment things got away from them.

UPDATE, 6 p.m. EST:  Army made a nice effort in the second half, getting another touchdown pass from Steelman to pull within 14 points late, but a ruthless 13-play, 87-yard Navy touchdown drive that ate up the first 9 minutes of the fourth quarter erased any real hope of a Black Knight comeback. Of course, if you take away the 7 points from the Middleton return and add them to Army's tally if Steelman had forced his way in instead, the game might have been tied down the stretch. As you might have expected at the half, here is where the game was won and lost:
 
Posted on: October 23, 2010 1:33 pm
Edited on: October 23, 2010 2:30 pm
 

Navy running over Notre Dame

Posted by Tom Fornelli



















The days of Notre Dame 's 43-game win streak over Navy seem like a very long time ago.  At halftime in East Rutherford, New Jersey, the Midshipmen look like they're ready to pick up their third win over the Irish in the last four years, leading 21-10 at the half.

Notre Dame's defense is just being gashed by the option attack of Navy, as the Middies have put together scoring drives of 99 and 71 yards, with Alexander Teich , Gee Gee Green and Ricky Dobbs exploiting huge holes and missed assignments all day.  Navy tacked on another touchdown just before the half after Dayne Crist threw an interception to leave a short field for the Midshipmen.

The defining play of the first half came on Notre Dame's first drive, when facing a fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line, Crist was stuffed on a quarterback sneak.  Navy then countered with that 99-yard touchdown drive, 84 of which came courtesy of Teich on a 54-yard run up the middle and a 30-yard touchdown catch on a screen pass.

Brian Kelly said before the game that wide receiver Michael Floyd, who has been battling a hamstring injury all week, would only play in an emergency.  I wonder if being down 21-10 at halftime constitutes one?

Posted on: September 6, 2010 7:13 pm
Edited on: September 6, 2010 7:14 pm
 

Navy falls a yard short against Maryland

Posted by Chip Patterson

The Navy teams of late have lived and died by the running game.  The triple option offense has been the Midshipmen's bread and butter, and on Monday afternoon against the Maryland Terrapins, it just wasn't enough.

Down three with 37 seconds left in regulation, Navy decided to go for the win on fourth and goal.  Quarterback Ricky Dobbs kept the ball on what looked to be a routine read option and was stopped in his tracks just inside the 1 yard line.  The play was reviewed, but instant replay only confirmed what the naked eye saw, and Dobbs just didn't have enough.

Left with only one timeout, all Maryland has to do is avoid getting a safety to walk out of the in-state battle victorious.  A win that could cool down the seat underneath head coach Ralph Friedgen, at least for the moment.
 
 
 
 
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